NATIONAL CONSULTANT: Towards Sustainable Transition in South Sudan: Assessing the environment for elections
South Sudan’s Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity RTGoNU is currently implementing the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). The objective of the R-ARCSS is to ensure an end to conflict and enable sustainable peace for the people of South Sudan. The RARCSS makes provisions for the conduct of free, fair and credible national elections at the end of the transition period.
In line with this provision of the RARCSS and in keeping United Nations electoral policy and UN Security Council Resolution 2567, the United Nations deployed an election needs assessment mission to South Sudan in May 2021. The needs assessment concluded that aspirations for peaceful and credible elections in South Sudan are high, albeit tempered by ubiquitous concerns over a fragile security, political and socioeconomic situation. The assessment found that elections could constitute a turning point for South Sudan if the process enjoys broad public trust and leads to a peaceful acceptance of the results. The report further mentioned the need to reduce the high stakes, renounce the politics of exclusion, strengthen the system of checks and balances within the Government, introduce mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights for all, ensure a genuine role for the opposition, examine how national resources are distributed, and tackle structural grievances. Additionally, the constitutional and legal reforms envisioned in the peace agreement should be leveraged to encourage women to participate meaningfully in decision - making processes.
The government has committed to implementing the provisions of the R-ARCSS. This provision requires the RTGoNU to ensure that the requisite processes are undertaken for free and fair elections to be held. This entails going beyond providing for operational aspects of the elections. As a power sharing transitional government, the RTGoNU is required to guarantee the participation of representatives of all parties to the Agreement in political decision making, including on elections. The provision also requires that conditions are in place that facilitate broad participation of all sectors of the population, a level playing field for electoral competition, professional institutions operating under appropriate legislative frameworks, and an enabling environment for maintaining peace. Establishing this conducive environment is a pathway that all electoral stakeholders can and should contribute to.
To that end, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is commissioning this study to elaborate considerations relating to the first phase of the NAM recommendations in relation to creation of conditions conducive for the conduct of free and fair elections in South Sudan.
In line with many other experts on elections in post-conflict, Svenja Korth notes that “Elections play a significant role in peace processes since they are widely considered to be the main method of achieving a peaceful resolution to political controversies. An election process […] can contribute to peace, but it can also provide entry points for violence and conflicts because of the competitive patterns embedded in the “winner-loser” dichotomy. Such instability can derail the peace process and hamper both short-term recovery efforts and long-term development. Therefore, the challenges associated with electoral processes are issues that directly impact peace operations.
Elections are complex political and technical processes, that comprise a number of different inter-related processes, and involve a number of institutions and a range of stakeholders, including the public at large. Creating a conducive environment for free and fair transitional elections that maximizes their inherent opportunities for strengthening peaceful democratic processes requires a holistic approach that facilitates appropriate legal and institutional frameworks, respect for human rights, political consensus, enabling security arrangements, and inclusive and equal opportunities for participation for all sectors of the population. Furthermore, for election outcomes to be credible, the electoral environment must foster trust in its processes.
The expectation to hold “free, fair and credible elections” however, represents uncharted territory for South Sudan (RTGoNU). As an independent country, South Sudan has never held national elections. The last elections in the country were held in April 2010 when, under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Sudan, the Sudanese citizens voted in the first national elections to be held in the country since 1986. In July 2011, South Sudan gained its independence following the results of the independence referendum. Although the first post-independence elections were scheduled for 2015, the country descended into conflict in 2013 because of internal disagreements within the governing SPLM party.
Deliberate efforts to ensure political freedoms and curb an authoritarian political climate are important for creating the space for all interested parties to articulate a clear political program. In preparations for the next elections as stipulated in the R-ARCSS, it is important that discussions represent a broader approach that include questions of political freedoms and a minimum level-playing field for the holding or free and fair elections as stipulated under R-ARCSS.
Focus areas of the study
To help understand the complexities of holding elections in the highly fragile transitional context of South Sudan, the study will attempt to answer the following key questions:
- What are the factors that contribute to a conducive environment for elections and what is the current status in South Sudan in relation to this?
- What is being done to strengthen the electoral environment and in what ways can it be further strengthened?
- What can be done to sustain peace in South Sudan through elections?
- How can this inform electoral assistance strategies and programmatic interventions?
Objectives of the study
The specific objectives of the study are to:
- Assess the current status of the electoral environment in South Sudan in relation to what is considered as conducive for elections;
- Gain a better understanding of the question of readiness for elections in South Sudan for different stakeholders;
- Identify areas where the UN and its international partners can target efforts to strengthen a conducive environment for elections;
- Provide evidence to contribute to UNDP’s programming, and UN strategies in the country as a whole, for a more effective interventions to support a conducive environment for elections in South Sudan.
Scope and Key Issues
The study will focus on conditions that contribute to enhancing a conducive environment for free and fair elections in South Sudan. The study will not provide an assessment of election operational requirements or the capacity of the National Elections Commission infrastructure, logistics, security and financial requirements to implement elections. As defined within the UN electoral Needs Assessment Mission report, this will take place as a separate technical assessment by the UNMISS-led integrated electoral assistance team. The study will, rather, consider other institutions, processes, frameworks and stakeholders that contribute to an enabling environment for these election operations to take place. The study will provide an analytical report identifying gaps, and targeted recommendations for key stakeholders that will lead to the creation of an enabling environment. In this respect the study may consider the following key issues, amongst others:
- Structural and institutional weaknesses
- Civic and political participation of different sectors of the population
- The impact of the conflict on the socio-political context (including displacement)
- Security context
- Legislative and policy frameworks
- Factors that may trigger election related violence and human rights violations.
The methodology will be proposed by the consultant and agreed by the UNDP Country Office in consultation with UNMISS electoral/political affairs colleagues. The inception report will define the scope of the study, elaborate its approach, and confirm stakeholders to be consulted. Information already gained through electoral project formulation consultations will be utilized.
The study will adopt a participatory approach by engaging a selected sample of critical stakeholders across various levels of the South Sudan society. Given the sensitivities around the topic of elections in South Sudan, a methodology, which facilitates information gathering, while protecting the informants will be critical. The criteria for stakeholder selection will be agreed at the outset of the study in consultation with UNDP. However, the following headings outline some possible methodological approaches for the study. These are preliminary and may be expanded, amended or reduced through consultations with UNDP and validation of the inception report.
Literature Review: The Consultants will undertake literature review of relevant reports, studies, and other materials on the subject and South Sudan, including the national dialogue. This will shed light on the debates on the subject, theories of change emerging from a range of experiences and pathways for sustained transitions in a post conflict context.
Perception Survey: The Consultants will conduct a rapid perception survey with key stakeholders on the political readiness for elections and the expectations for the R-ARCSS on the transition. This may assist in assessing prevalent views of South Sudanese and actors on the transition process and the role of elections. Existing perception surveys may also be utilized.
Key Informant Interviews: Key informant interviews will be conducted with a cross section of key informants at national, state, and county levels. In the context of COVID restrictions the Consultant is encouraged to suggest innovative ways for engaging stakeholders for the interviews and other data collection methods.
Focus Group Discussions and group consultations: Focus groups discussions and group consultations with specific stakeholders may be held, keeping in mind COVID-19 restrictive measures. These may be utilized as part of a perception survey or to triangulate findings from other approaches.
Duties and Responsibilities
Under the supervision of the Lead elections expert, and working with the UNDP South Sudan country office, the national expert will support the elections readiness study, with analysis and dialogue leading to the articulation of an elections readiness report for South Sudan.
The National expert is responsible for collecting data, policy documents and analysis and for liaising with government officials and other national stakeholders. She/he will support the Lead expert in completing the process of analysis, consultation, and dialogue throughout the study in accordance with the approach agreed for the study.
The responsibilities of the National expert will include but is not limited to the following activities:
Initial analysis and consultation phase
- Engage with government officials and other national stakeholders to collect relevant data, policy documentation and analysis to inform the elections readiness report study.
- Support the information gathering for desk review
- Support the Lead expert to undertake analysis of the political context and outlook, and of existing structures, ongoing reforms s per the RARCSS.
- Support the Lead expert and country office to plan missions, consultations and stakeholder dialogues
- Support, and lead where necessary, consultations with relevant stakeholders to (i) collect data, information, and analysis, (ii) engage stakeholders in the study and (iii) share, socialize and refine initial emerging findings and ideas for recommendations to be developed.
- Support process of finalizing the elections readiness study as needed.
Estimated Duration to Complete
Target Due Dates
Review and Approvals Required
(Indicate designation of person who will review output and confirm acceptance)
Initial data collection, analysis, and submission of inception report
Series of stakeholder dialogues and submission of first research workshop report
Report of data collected, literature review and second research workshop report
First draft elections readiness study
Final elections readiness study report
- Demonstrating/safeguarding ethics and integrity.
- Demonstrate corporate knowledge and sound judgment.
- Self-development, initiative-taking.
- Acting as a team player and facilitating teamwork.
- Facilitating and encouraging open communication in the team, communicating effectively
- Creating synergies through self-control.
- Managing conflict.
- Learning and sharing knowledge and encourage the learning of others. Promoting learning and knowledge management/sharing is the responsibility of each staff member.
- Informed and transparent decision making.
Required Skills and Experience
- Master’s degree in Political Science, public administration, international relations, or other relevant area.
- At least 5-7 years of experience with elections, political analysis, international relations and/or law or related area.
- Previous experience with development partners or government is a very strong advantage.
- Research experience in areas of public policy, political analysis is required.
- Good research skills - data collection and analysis is essential.
- Good knowledge of the South Sudan political environment and government systems and processes.
- Ability to conduct interviews with government and key stakeholders.
- Proficiency in English (written and spoken) is required.
Terms of Payment
The consultant will be paid on a lump sum basis subject to completion of agreed tasks as follows:
- Submission of inception report (15%)
- Submission of first research workshop report with finalized methodology and data collection tools (15%)
- Report of data collected, literature review and second research workshop report (20%)
- Draft report on the assessment of a conducive environment for elections study (25%)
- Final Draft study report incorporating comments from all stakeholders (25%)
- Educational Qualifications (15 Marks)
- Professional Qualifications and Certifications (15 Marks)
- Proven and experience/satisfactorily implementation of similar assignment in the past (70 Marks)